The Obama administration has drafted an alternative immigration bill in case Congress fails to agree on an immigration overhaul, President Barack Obama’s chief of staff said Sunday.
Denis McDonough made his first appearance as Obama’s top White House aide while speaking on ABC News’ “This Week.” McDonough, responding to a newspaper report, said the administration is continuing to work with a bipartisan group of eight senators to draft comprehensive immigration legislation.
“We’ve not proposed anything to Capitol Hill yet,” McDonough said. “We’re just going to be ready. We have developed each of these proposals so we have them in a position so that we can succeed.”
USA Today on Saturday reported that early drafts of the White House plan would allow undocumented immigrants to become legal permanent residents within eight years. The proposal would also provide more border security funding and require business owners to check the immigration status of new hires within four years.
In addition, undocumented immigrants would be able to apply for a new “Lawful Prospective Immigrant” visa that, if approved, would then allow them to apply for the same provisional legal status for a spouse or children living outside of the United States.
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The details of the plan are similar to a statement of principles the White House provided to reporters after a speech Obama gave in Las Vegas last month. The fact sheet said the president aimed to strengthen border security, provide “earned citizenship,” restructure the legal immigration system and crack down on employers who knowingly hire undocumented workers.
“Immigrants living here illegally must be held responsible for their actions by passing national security and criminal background checks, paying taxes and a penalty, going to the back of the line, and learning English before they can earn their citizenship,” the fact sheet said. “There will be no uncertainty about their ability to become U.S. citizens if they meet these eligibility criteria.”
The White House has emphasized the importance of creating an immigration plan that includes a real path to citizenship for the approximately 11 million immigrants living in the U.S. illegally. But many Republicans insist the government should ensure the nation’s borders are secure before granting permanent residence or opportunities for citizenship for those who do not lawfully reside in the country.
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., who, as a Cuban-American, has become a spokesman for the Republican Party’s immigration reform efforts, criticized the White House plan over the weekend and insisted it would be “dead on arrival” in Congress.
“It’s a mistake for the White House to draft immigration legislation without seeking input from Republican members of Congress,” Rubio said in a statement late Saturday.
McDonough did not confirm which proposals were included in the president’s plan, but said those details would be revealed if lawmakers are unable to come to an agreement.
“Well, let’s make sure that it doesn’t have to be proposed; let’s make sure that that group up there, the Gang of Eight, makes some good progress on these efforts, as much as they say they want to,” he said, referring to the bipartisan group of senators. “That’s exactly what we intend to do, to work with them.”